A New Horizon for the Democratic Party
When I was mayor, I was asked to make a conscious choice between competing visions, between whether corporations existed for the city or the city existed for the corporations, between the claims of the community and the claims of commerce, between the requirement for economic justice and the imperative for profit, between the public interest and private interest. These are choices that we all make every day in the accommodations we make with our purchases, where we work, where we live, how we travel, what we eat.
Everyday, as each one of us chooses, so chooses the world.
A few years ago, I could smell the dynamic tension between the claims of the community and the claims of the free market in the tear gas that invaded the locked-down lobby of this very hotel (Westin, Seattle) during the challenge to the practices of the World Trade Organization. I could feel that tension coursing through the streets of this city when I marched with machinists and moms, with Teamsters and turtles in a call for human rights, workers' rights and environmental quality principles to become integral to our commerce. The challenge before us today, the challenge before our nation and the world is whether we accept the beneficence of Lincoln's prayer to create "...a government of the people, by the people and for the people," or whether we timidly accept the economic, social and political consequences of a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.
One hundred years ago, Mayor Tom Johnson of Cleveland set the stage for the establishment of a municipally owned electric company. His credo: "I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies, for the same reason that I believe in the municipal ownership of waterworks, of parks, of schools, I believe in the municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them they will in time own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties."
The implosion of the Enron Corporation is a cautionary tale of the danger to the people of our nation, to our economy and to our political system of the influence of unfettered, unregulated corporations and the grave risks of privatization. The power industry used its influence at every level of government to create a structure which transferred at least $71 billion from California to itself. It is the haiku of hegemony:
False promise low rates,
Political contributions place.
Regulatory controls erase.
Energy supplies manipulate.
Bailouts by state.
This predatory system must be set aside. The only way to ensure that Enron does not happen again is for government at the state and federal levels to reclaim a rightful role as regulator in the public interest, to restructure electric rates to protect residents and small businesses, to enact windfall-profit taxes and to finance the construction of municipal power systems.
From the darkness that is Enron, I see a new day dawning in energy in America. I see a new horizon, where the American community consciously chooses sustainability and ushers in a new era of power, of solar, of wind, of hydrogen and other renewable fuels to provide endless energy upon an endless planet.
The Democratic Party must become the party of reregulation, of public control, of public accountability, of public power not only in energy--but in healthcare.
Through the work of our party, I see a new horizon for healthcare for all Americans with a universal, single-payer system. Today such coverage is available to Americans over the age of 65. We need a new Medicare, Part E (for Everyone), which will relieve the suffering and uncertainty of 44 million Americans who currently have no health coverage and the economic pain of those who are paying exorbitant rates for their health insurance.